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Lions Gate presents
RoboCop: Prime Directives, Part 1—Dark Justice (2000)

"Your move, creep!"
- RoboCop (Page Fletcher)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: February 24, 2003

Stars: Page Fletcher, Maurice Dean Wint, Maria del Mar, Gerain Wyn Davies
Other Stars: Leslie Hope, Rebeka Coles-Burdys, Francoise Yip
Director: Julien Grant

Manufacturer: Technicolor
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, some language)
Run Time: 01h:32m:29s
Release Date: February 25, 2003
UPC: 031398823322
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C-B+B D-

DVD Review

The world of RoboCop has been a rocky one. While the original film was filled with many levels of clever filmmaking, the popularity it spawned resulted in questionable continuations of the saga. I admit, I liked the sick, twisted, ridiculous violence and social satire of RoboCop 2, but the bad qualities of part 3, the cartoon series, and successive television works just became too much to handle. The RoboCop franchise was effectively killed by bad filmmaking and over-licensing. In an attempt to entertain fans and win them back made by network television in the year 2000, an impressive RoboCop mini-series entitled Prime Directives was created. Now, coming to DVD are all four parts of the 6-hour miniseries starting with this disc, Dark Justice, the first of the four movies made for television. As one might expect, the movies can't really hold up against the feature films due to lack of budget and, admittedly, a lack of talent. It's not so much that the actors and filmmakers are terrible, but things are a little chaotic, and let's face it: there really is no RoboCop after Peter Weller played the role in the original film (brilliantly I might add). Actor Page Fletcher does OK with the role, but lacks the physical intimidation of the original character, and his suit is lacking in the beefy dimensions we expect from RoboCop.

Prime Directives takes an interesting route in terms of story. It ignores everything we've ever seen about RoboCop except for the first film. All the sequels and other material added on might as well not exist, which is fine by me. Instead, the setting is 10 years later when Delta City has been constructed and is now the "safest city on Earth," although that really isn't true. The government is still a corporation; Omni Consumer Products still lords its financial power over the people like a gun ready to go off. A terrorist known as Bone Machine is blowing things up and RoboCop is expected to stop him. Meanwhile, the OCP Police are trying to institute a kinder, gentler approach to handling criminals, although this is thwarted when John Cable (the police chief from the original film, here played by a different actor) returns to get mean and nasty with every evil-doer on the block. In a sub-plot, RoboCop's son (whom he had before becoming a cyborg) has now joined the corporate sharks over at OCP, and is gunning for the higher positions. Sadly, he fits right in as one of the typical OCP tyrants, and one of their new projects is the creation of another, more advanced robot police device.

Without going into specifics, the movie soon boils down into the expected elements: RoboCop vs. the baddies, OCP cooking up a mysterious scheme, and another robot waiting in the wings to take on the original Robo. In many ways, Dark Justice resembles RoboCop 2, only without the vicious drug sub-plot. The problem is, Dark Justice just isn't that good. Technically, it's very capable and surprisingly well orchestrated. Unlike the original television series, this one "gets it" in terms of the dark, cheesy humor so purposefully inserted into the original film. I admire the attempt to embrace the viewer in that realm again, but it just gets goofy. If the Bone Machine villain (who looks like a reject from an action-figure line) wasn't enough, the eventual collapse of control over the script kills the project. Worse yet, this is only part one of a four-part saga. Although this film will look extremely bad on the surface, it's much better than it would seem. The problem is, the good parts (clever dialogue, interesting plot, decent action) are drowned in a sea of pointless other stuff that doesn't need to be there. RoboCop is far from being a serious premise, but it's still not a license to go nuts; Dark Justice doesn't understand that enough. It's too much and not enough at the same time, which may sound odd, but it makes sense as the movie plods along. It's better than I thought it would be, but at the same time, when it starts out strong, it just makes the expectations higher, and it fails to live up to even my lowest expectations. Maybe the whole Prime Directives thing needs to be seen together, but in all fairness, I think it's expecting too much for people to sit through a 6-hour television movie based around a concept originally intended as a socially satirical joke.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1:85:1 anamorphic, Dark Justice looks extremely clean and crisp. There are no significant issues, although the black level seemed a bit off in certain scenes. Whether or not the film is matted or actually filmed in widescreen is a little hard to discern, but it helps with the overall presentation to have the anamorphic enhancement.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The stereo sound does its job without much fanfare; there's little surround effects. What is there is a good a representation of the on-screen action in stereo soundfields. The action sequences aren't too impressive audio-wise, but they are appropriately loud and wild. There are no issues to complain about, and the clarity and overall quality is quite nice.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Packaging: Double Scanavo
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no additional features on the disc, with the sole exception of a trailer for the entire Prime Directives series. The menus are easy to use and nicely animated, but fairly basic.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Dark Justice is an interesting approach to continuing the RoboCop legacy, but at the same time, it's too elaborate for its own good. In setting up a four-part series, the movie is either too energized (trying hard to imitate the style of the original film) or incredibly boring. If you enjoyed the RoboCop television series, you might like this, but if you preferred how the first two movies were crafted, this one might just disappoint.


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